Karador is all about attrition; he grinds out games and allows you to focus your energy on controlling what you want to control and finding your window of opportunity to strike. A comment about the deck I like is “When playing Karador, you don’t play to win; you play not to lose”. You are not trying to set up a specific winning board state and you are not trying to actively win the game until the very last minute. Until then, you simply control the game, control the board, ensure you can last long enough to outvalue your opponents and take them down at that time. He is often viewed as “the Reanimation general” for Abzan, but he reanimates for value, not for power.
This deck is literally the first deck I built and is the deck that effectively got me back into Magic in general. I copied a Doran, the Siege Tower deck from online around 2011 since I had very little knowledge of the format. I didn’t know what cards were good in EDH (turns out Primeval Titan was very good) or what wasn’t. I am not even sure what motivated me to build with these colors to begin with Though, because of my fondness for Royal Assassin, Black Knight, and Hypnotic Specter, I knew it had to be Black. I brought the deck with me to an LGS and after that one play session, my cousin suggested I change it to Karador since he had just been released in the Precons.
This led to a slow change in the deck as I got used to playing it and figuring out what worked and what didn’t. Because the Doran list wasn’t really built around Doran, it was an easy swap to Karador without needing to completely re-tool the deck but, over time, the entire deck changed as my preferred playstyle with the deck emerged and evolved. I am not sure how many cards are in the deck now that were in the deck to start with but my guess is less than 10 (and that is being generous).
For a while, I had an Adun Oakenshield deck built that then turned into a Xira Arien deck and it always felt that it was just a worse version of Karador. Then, the 4 color generals and the Partner generals were released, and I just mashed the two decks together basically. This created a worse version of both decks and I took it apart within a few months. I was then without a Karador deck for nearly a year before I realized I missed the play style and I had nothing like it anymore. Since then, the deck has been fairly slow to change and there have been no sweeping changes since putting it together again. As with a lot of decks, there are still changes with new cards, but the deck is at a point now where the bar is pretty high for a card to warrant an inclusion. Though, there are a couple “flex slots” that allow for new cards to be added just to try out.
Why you should play the deck
You enjoy long grindy games of Magic
You enjoy having all the answers
You are confident in your ability to accurately assess board states
You like games that play out differently every time
Why you shouldn’t play the deck
You are more of a combo player
You want to win as fast as possible
You always want your general on the field
You don’t like it when your own stuff goes away
Ghave, Guru of Spores – Ghave is typically viewed as a combo general and for good reason. There are some overlapping cards between the two strategies, but overall the two decks play quite a bit different which makes Ghave less useful for this type of build. However, being able to pump out chump blockers can be a decent way to slow the game down in the early stages.
Anafenza, the Foremost – She is the right colors and works on hurting your opponents graveyard. But, again, she doesn’t interact directly with the deck in any meaningful way. Depending on how much graveyard strategies you play against, she can be decent in the 99, but I don’t think she works well in the Command Zone.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant – While not the same colors, she is probably the closest to being able to do what Karador wants to do. She actively wants things in the graveyard and can set up later plays with her self-milling, but she doesn’t get anything back and you do lose out on White (though, you get Blue so that might be worth something). I think she wants a different approach, but she is fairly close to the same playstyle (though, maybe more aggressive) that it is worth calling her out here.
The cards included in the deck list have gone through quite a bit of testing and a lot of thought has gone into most of them. As always, there is likely room for improvement, and budgets should be taken into consideration, but this list has so far been working out well. There is another section on possible budget alternatives as well as some notable omissions that others may choose to add.
Duals and Fetches – The backbone of the deck and the cards that allow for the right mana at the right time. The only thing noteworthy here is that I only include “on-color” fetches so I just have the three along with Prismatic Vista.
Bazaar of Baghdad – An extremely versatile and important land in this deck. The ability to filter your hand and fill your graveyard can turn unplayable hands into winning ones. I remember on at least a couple occasions where I would use Bazaar when I was empty handed just to hope for something good to discard so Karador could reanimate it. Bazaar can also be instrumental in protecting your graveyard from exile by discarding an Eldrazi Titan off its ability.
Bojuka Bog – A very powerful anti-graveyard card. Knowing what a graveyard deck can do, it is vital to be able to stop other decks from utilizing their graveyard too much.
Command Tower – The quintessential “EDH Land”. Every deck that is more than 2 colors (and some 2 color decks) should run this.
Diamond Valley – Arguably, the most important land in the deck after maybe Bazaar (and easily my go to land for anything). Being able to sacrifice your stuff at the right time, or to prevent it from being exiled, is instrumental in ensuring your plans can still go off later. Not tapping for mana (like Bazaar) is a downside but is generally not a big one. And Urborg can help with this as well.
Dryad Arbor – Dryad Arbor is in here for a couple different reasons. It is “free” off of Protean Hulk and, in a pinch, can be sacrificed to help make Karador cheaper. As a note, it cannot be played with Karador but hopefully you have better things to get than a 1/1 Dryad anyway.
High Market, Miren, the Moaning Well, and Phyrexian Tower – All the other land based sac outlets. High Market is free and the life gain is basically irrelevant. Miren costs 3 but the life gain can be very important. And Tower is free and gives mana. All 3 should be included if possible, but Tower is likely the most important followed by Miren.
Mistveil Plains – A fetchable utility land that can help get certain cards back in your library if you need them. Arguably one of the less useful lands but in the right cases, can help out quite a bit.
Murmuring Bosk – A fetchable land that taps for all 3 of our colors ensure we get the right colors when we need them. The damage is negligible.
Vesuva – The main reason this is here is to be a second Bojuka Bog. Being able to Crop Rotation for a Vesuva when Bog is already on the field can be a huge play. In a pinch, can also be another Diamond Valley or Bazaar. Just watch out for your Legendary Lands.
Volrath’s Stronghold – Since we are dealing with a lot of creatures and the graveyard, this is another option for getting an important creature back in the event that Karador is not around or you need more than the one Karador will let you cast.
Winding Canyons – Since nearly half the deck is creatures, Winding Canyons is a great way to hold back until you absolutely want to cast your creatures to avoid opposing wraths. Flashing in a Chainer, Dementia Master to then reanimate something else is always a fun, exciting, and (often) unexpected play.
This is because Karador wants creatures and Karador wants them in the graveyard. So, the creatures enter, get the land, and then die at some point to fuel Karador. Even being able to get Karador down for WBG and then casting a Sakura Tribe Elder every turn for a couple turns is enough to get things moving for your side of the board.
Burnished Hart is here because of the reanimation elements. Oracle is the only one that needs to stick around but she can get unneeded lands off the top and help ramp over the course of a few turns.
Birds of Paradise & Deathrite Shaman - These are currently trial slots to determine if the deck wants more mana dorks. I am not sure on whether it does (see the Omissions section below) but these seems to be reasonable enough to try out.
Yavimaya Elder & Weathered Wayfarer – These don’t necessarily ramp, but they help ensure we hit out land drops on time. Elder replaces itself and is also easy to get in the grave for Karador which are both nice aspects and Wayfarer can get any land. The big issue is Wayfarer only works when behind which we don't often want to be. It is another card that looks like a good effect but may not be consistent enough.
Agent of Erebos – A creature based form of grave hate that can keep exiling graveyards for other enchantments works out pretty well. I find that players don’t often include enough grave hate in their decks and a repeatable one (that can sometimes be flashed in helps ensure your opponents don’t get much value from their graveyards.
Archon of Justice – The biggest draw here is that the ability can exile anything. There are enough ways to ensure it dies that this shouldn’t be a hindrance and, because it dies, it can be cast again off Karador.
Bane of Progress – In my mind, every green deck that doesn’t rely heavily on artifacts and enchantments should run this guy. This card does way too much in EDH to be excluded from most green decks. I have had games where players feared this dropping in and being able to recur it and do it over has often kept some of the “degenerate” artifact decks in check. Being 6 mana is a hindrance but I feel it is worth it. Just note that Enchanted Evening and Mycosynth Lattice turn this card into a true board wipe (including itself) so be wary when those cards are on the field.
Chainer, Dementia Master – Likely one of the most important creatures in the deck (easily top 3 at least). While the mana restrictions on the ability, and the life payment, can be daunting, this card wins games. I have had turns where I spend 12 mana, get back 4 creatures, sac one to Diamond Valley to gain life back, and go on a tear with the others. If you include this, Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth is a must and I feel you will rarely be disappointed to see Chainer (though, your opponents might).
Erebos, God of the Dead – Card draw and an effect that stops life gain for your opponents. Because the games tend to go on long, stopping life gain can be very important. And being able to refill your hand at the expense of your own life can allow you to remain in the game while you are still trying to slow everyone else down. Being a 5/7 Indestructible creature is also good for when you finally want to start closing out the game. Just watch out for targeted removal while it is a creature.
Eternal Witness – Every green deck should play this and Karador especially. Being a creature means it can come back often and keep getting important non-creature cards.
False Prophet – False Prophet is a deadly card in this deck. Very rarely should any of your stuff get exiled and “cast Prophet, sac Prophet, cast Karador, cast Prophet” can be a huge play. I have had games where I essentially had a lock with the Prophet for a few turns and my opponents could do basically nothing.
Gray Merchant of Asphodel – Mainly a win condition but can provide enough life in a pinch to keep you in the game. Some of my favorite plays were “cast Gray Merchant, sac Gray Merchant, reanimate with Chainer (or Undying triggers with Mikaeus), repeat”. I have gotten 4 or 5 triggers with him in a single turn when everything lines up right.
Karmic Guide – While this is often viewed as a combo card, here it is just value. Casting it off Karador to give a flying blocker and another creature allows for enough creatures to stall out for a few turns while to trying to turn the tides or trying to win. And, without Karador, it becomes a good way to get something back when needed. Just remember: if you are paying the Echo cost for this, things probably aren’t going too well. There should almost never be a time when you want to pay the Echo cost as it is usually better in your graveyard anyway.
Knight of Autumn – This is effectively a Harmonic Sliver/Reclamation Sage 99% of the time. The life gain option is nice to have if it is really necessary or you just need to get a creature down to sac to Phyrexian Tower. It will be rare to put counters on it.
Knight of the Reliquary – Because of the number of utility lands in the deck, this is another important piece of the puzzle. It can get Bog when needed, or Maze, or even just mana fixing at worse. While, at the same time, it grows larger to either be a force that needs to be dealt with or something you can sac to gain life. It took a while to get back to including this card, but I think it works well in this deck.
Kokusho, the Evening Star – Another wincon. Being able sacrifice and reanimate (and maybe sacrifice again) allows you to close out games. If nothing else, gaining 15-20 life at a time with it can give you enough room to work to close out the game later on.
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – This is almost never cast until the very end of the game and very rarely actually attacks. He is here to protect the graveyard and, potentially, draw some cards. Depending on your meta, don’t plan on this winning games (though it can) since it will likely eat removal more often than not.
Lifeblood Hydra – This on the other hand is often a great card. Pump 7-9 mana into it and then let it die to draw cards and gain life. It doesn’t work well with Karmic Guide or Chainer but works with Karador and generally works out very well (even with smaller numbers for X). I think the lowest you ever want to cast it is for X=3 and even then it will generally be because you are getting behind and you need some cards.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed – Another super important card and one that allows for a lot of shenanigans. My favorite play with this is to cast a Karmic Guide to get something, let the Guide die and Undying trigger, to then get something else for free again. Note, it gives all your non-humans +1/+1 right away and does not give humans Undying (so no looping Eternal Witness or False Prophet).
Necrotic Sliver – Vindicate on a stick and works well with Harmonic Sliver. Being able to deal with any permanent at Instant timing is very good and being able to do it over and over is even better.
Protean Hulk – This is one of my favorite cards in the deck. Sacrifice it to get Karmic Guide and Dryad Arbor and then sac it again to get Bane of Progress or Spike Weaver or False Prophet or a lot of other cards. Protean Hulk value plays are exactly what this deck wants to be doing.
Remorseful Cleric – More grave hate. As this deck shows, players using their graveyard can often out-grind others so being able to stop others from doing what you are trying to do is important to ensure you can continue doing your thing.
Spike Weaver – Probably another of the more important creatures in the deck. Being able to fog for a few turns is important and being able to get it back with Mikaeus or Chainer can often turn games to your favor. Again, the deck wants to, and expects, to go long, so having ways to make that happen are important while you try to get to the point of winning.
Sun Titan – Great with a lot of things. Even just getting a land back can be important and there are a lot of small creatures that it can get back. Getting back Pernicious Deed every turn is also something that can ensure you keep the board clear and can continue attacking with your bigger creatures.
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre – As mentioned, he is here mostly for the graveyard protection but also to deal with several permanents. He doesn’t exile so indestructible stops him but it is a cast trigger so you will almost always get to destroy what you target. If he does land, he is harder to get rid of than Kozilek so he has a higher chance of living to then be able to swing.
Ulvenwald Hydra - I didn’t include this up top as ramp because that is not what it is here for. At least 80% of the time, I get Diamond Valley off this. Since it also comes with a big body, Sacrificing this to Diamond Valley and then reanimating it to get another body/life/land always fees like a creature play. Plus, it has Reach which is often relevant since this deck is a bit light on the flyers.
Constant Mists – Repeatable fog at the low cost of sacrificing a land. Due to how slow the deck can sometimes be, being able to fog for 3 or 4 turns as you build up can mean the difference between winning and losing. So many decks are reliant on combat damage to win and this helps stop them.
Corpse Dance – A cheap way to get back big things from your graveyard. Works well with Greater Good and Bazaar to get you exactly what you want. Just remember that you can’ re-organize your graveyard (though you shouldn’t be doing that in EDH anyway) so the order you put things in the yard can often matter later on.
Crop Rotation – Instant Bog, Maze of Ith, Urborg, Diamond Valley, Strip Mine or even Dryad Arbor in certain cases. All of these things are good so Crop Rotation is often one of the more underrated but impactful cards in the deck.
Entomb – This is in here for two reasons; get an Eldrazi Titan at Instant Timing to save the graveyard and get an important creature to then cast off Karador. Sometimes Buried Alive can be decent in this slot, but the Instant aspect of this card is what sells it.
Momentous Fall – Another Instant timing sac outlet and one that draws a bunch of cards and gains a bunch of life. This has saved my creatures more than a few times and has saved me the game as well due to the life gain. Since it can save something from being exiled, it allows you to cast it with Karador again. And it is good to have if players are actively attacking your sac outlets as you can “get them” with this when they are not expecting it.
Path to Exile and Swords to Plowshares – Cheap spot removal that exiles rather than destroys. Neither one has a downside that ever really matters. Ramping your opponents 1 land in EDH doesn’t usually amount to much (though you can watch to see if it will give them a color they are missing) and life is even more irrelevant. Since you are working at grinding them down, giving them 10+ life in exchange for exiling an Eldrazi Titan or something is not a fair trade, but not fair for them; that is a trade you will make every time.
Damnation and Toxic Deluge – Both are here as cheap wraths to help keep the board clear and Deluge can deal with indestructible creatures.
Aura Shards – One of the best ways to deal with opposing enchantments and artifacts. I still like getting Dryad Arbor off of a fetch to blow up an important artifact/enchantment at instant timing.
Greater Good – Card draw, a sac outlet, and a way to fill the yard pretty fast. This card has put in a lot of work in this deck since the discard is rarely a downside.
Pernicious Deed – This ends up giving us a way to hold up mana to deal with exactly what you want to deal with. While it does telegraph the play it can also ensure your opponents don’t have much of a board when you start your next turn if you are able to wait until the last player’s end step to activate it. It also deals with most tokens when needed.
Phyrexian Reclamation – Due to the nature of the deck, being able to get back creatures is important. Reclamation is one of the best for this and the life payment generally doesn’t matter all that much.
Sylvan Library - This gives us some much needed card draw. The deck tends to be somewhat cavalier with its life total so this fits right in with that idea. Just watch out to be sure you are not spending too much life on keeping unnecessary cards
Chainer, Dementia Master – One of the most important cards in the deck. You will likely want to do whatever you can to keep him around or, at the very least, keep him from being exiled. There are times when you need to give up the fight on him so choose your battles over him carefully.
Sac Outlets – Diamond Valley is my go to, but others are just as important. It is somewhat surprising for someone to look at the deck from the outside and be able to tell just how important your sac outlets are. And they are very important. If you are in a game where you have none because you didn’t draw them or they have been removed, it becomes even more difficult to control the game and, ultimately, win. Do what you can to ensure you have at least 1 sac outlet on the board and preferably 3 or 4.
Ulvenwald Hydra – It may seem strange to put this here, but this card does a lot for us. It gives us a blocker against flyers, it gives us a way to get to our Diamond Valley or Miren the Moaning Well and it gives us a big body to sac over and over to gain some much needed life. My Diamond Valley and Miren are targeted super hard because of the life gain they allow and I have won a number of games because of them. While Diamond Valley might be over budget for some, Miren should be in this deck no matter what and Hydra gives us the way to get to these.
Kokusho, the Evening Star – Our main win con because it triggers on dying. While there are a lot of ways to eventually win the game, this is one of the better ways to do it. While not quite as important as Chainer, it can be a card worth fighting over.
Eldrazi Titans – Ulamog and Kozilek are here primarily for their graveyard protection and should be viewed as such. If you get to a place where you can cast them, that is great. However, that should not be the goal. Don’t try to ramp to 10+ mana and then slam one of these as they will not win you the game if they come down early and it leaves them open to removal. As long as you have a sac outlet you can activate, there should be no issue with casting one, but try not to do so without some way of preventing them from being exiled.
Survival of the Fittest – Anyone who plays this deck, depending on budget, will likely want a copy of Survival. For the longest time, Survival was a part of this deck, but it was cut for being *too* good. Mainly, it created situations where the value with Karador was too much for my opponents to deal with and it always felt like the games became repetitive with Survival. If these are not concerns for you, this is likely a snap include.
Ashen Rider – This is a “better” Archon of Justice but 8 mana is a lot for this type of deck. While you can generally ramp to 8 fairly quickly, you don’t want to be spending all your mana on something like this. There are other options that exist and should be used over this most of the time.
Viscera Seer – I don’t feel like this deck needs a lot of creature-based sac outlets but Seer is one of the best ones. Depending on what else you can or want to include, Seer can be a pretty good addition.
Reveillark – This is more of a combo card and since this deck doesn’t do combos, it has been omitted. If you include this, then Viscera Seer is an obvious include as well.
Gaea’s Cradle – This was in the deck but this deck is not really setup to utilize it. And, I have found too many situations where it doesn’t tap for mana at all leading me to leave it out. It isn’t the worst card to have but as we are not flooding the board, this card isn’t as useful as it can be in other decks.
Mana dorks in general (Llanowar Elves, Arbor Elf, etc.) – While this is obviously a creature heavy deck, it is also one that expects to wrath the board, or for the board to be wrathed, fairly early and potentially often as the game goes on. It is tough enough to go down a land when Dryad Arbor dies and we don’t really want that extended to even more mana production when we eventually have to wrath the board. Ramping with lands is safer and ensures that we can more consistently plan out future plays rather than possibly being caught without the necessary mana because our 2 or 3 dorks got destroyed.
As noted above, Birds and Deathrite are currently being tried out in a trial basis to see if the deck does benefit from more mana dorks. Depending on their performance and impact, we may add more.
Diamond Valley – Miren is the closest and it is already in the deck. At least one *needs* to be in this deck and Miren is a fine substitute. Disciple of Griselbrand or Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim have the same effect but they are not even close to the same caliber. Since the biggest draw here is the fact that it is a free sac outlet along with gaining life, there really isn’t a good alternative. For another free sac outlet, Viscera Seer is likely the best.
Bazaar of Baghdad – This is another that doesn’t really have a good alternative. Greater Good can help as it does something close but it requires 4 mana and a creature. And, it is already in the deck. If budget is a concern, this might be one to just skip over. It isn’t absolutely necessary to include but the deck does play better with Bazaar than without.
The main strategy of the deck is to fill the graveyard and utilize it as much as possible. However, this is to be controlled as much as possible which is why self-milling doesn’t make an appearance here. You want to know what it is in your graveyard, and you want to use it at the right time, but that doesn’t mean you want to just dump your library into your graveyard and call it a day. A reasonable amount of restraint is expected and knowing when to put things in your graveyard is important as things are vulnerable there.
Our opening hands want at least 3 lands and 1 ramp piece. With the number of lands that don’t produce color, it is important not to keep a hand with one of these lands unless there are enough ramp pieces and other lands to make up for it. Typically, you want at least 1 green source (two is preferable). Unless you feel your hand is stacked, it is often right to throw away a hand with no green mana regardless of the other cards. Too many times you will be stuck without that green mana and fall too far behind.
Focus on ramping and answering early threats as needed. Very often it is the right call to continue to ramp even as players are building their board states. You want to ensure that you have the mana, and the resources, necessary to wrath at the right time and bring down a threat. Sometimes you do need to spend a removal spell early but be sure it is something that truly needs to be answered.
This is about the time where you want to really focus on what others are doing. You have spent your time trying to build your board state up with lands and maybe a couple creatures. Now, is the time to look for big threats that can either be dealt with via spot removal if there are only a couple big threats or wraths if you need to reset the board entirely. Being able to reset everyone should impact you the least since you have spent very little in resources on trying to build a board state so none of your big hitters are out yet.
Also, this is the time, when you are likely to start dropping in Mikaeus, the Unhallowed or Ulvenwald Hydra. Not necessarily creatures that will win the game but things that further slow the game down and force your opponents to extend further to get around your stuff. This is important as you want to be in a position where other players need to try to go bigger than you or try to get around your stuff which means that you are further able to generate more advantage when you wrath the board again. This is also about the time when you want to first cast Karador.
This is where we start trying to win. We have hopefully caused our opponents to run out of resources and we still have a lot of gas in the tank. This is where we flood the board with our Kokusho, the Evening Star, our Mikaeus, the Unhallowed (if we had to wait for him), our Gray Merchant of Asphodel, etc. We start being able to attack into players without fearing them coming back at us and we can then sacrifice our stuff and reanimate things to get some of the better dies triggers or continuing to keep control of the board. It may take a few turns so still be patient at this stage of the game. Getting here is a big accomplishment and trying to suddenly turn aggressive or trying to speed things up can spell trouble if you are not aware of what others are doing. Just because you *can* get Ulvenwald Hydra and Mikaeus and Kokusho and whatever else on the field doesn’t mean you should. Especially if it will cost a lot of your mana and leave you vulnerable. Playing it slow is rarely a mistake.
Generally, you want a measured approach to the game. Don’t overextend, but be cognizant of what everyone else is doing. You are not playing Blue, but you are still playing a form of control. Ensure you use your wraths and removal at the appropriate time. Don’t get too anxious and spend them early but, on the flip side, don’t get greedy and spend them too late. Knowing when to cast your removal is very important to the success of the deck. I have often seen players play decks like this (or this one specifically) and they get blown out because they spend their removal very early and have nothing for the mid to late game when players are dropping their real threats.
Karador’s main strength is in the fact that the deck has a lot of value in the card choices. You should always be able to out-grind your opponents, even while they are trying to stop you. Your creatures dying is not a detriment (and, in fact, you sometimes want them to die). Their deaths only fuel your cause and your graveyard can become a second hand.
Karador can also be forgiving, up to a point. If you over-extend, he can help you rebuild. If you make a play mistake with a creature, Karador can give you another crack at it next turn. Precision and tight plays are certainly the goal, but as you evolve your playstyle and learn the deck, the nature of the general can allow for some missteps along the way without causing the deck to fold in on itself.
Lastly, a big pro, depending on your meta, can be the resiliency against control. While control can slow the deck down, anything that is countered generally goes to the graveyard which means you just get to use it again. In certain cases, a well timed Counterspell can spell the end, (which applies to a lot of decks) so never underestimate the blue player.
However, as you may be able to ascertain, the biggest weakness Karador has is grave hate. While the deck is not overly reliant on the graveyard, losing your graveyard, especially after trying to set up a specific play with cards in the yard, can be devastating. There are a few cards to help mitigate this though. Another weakness is the slowness of the deck. Going against a fast aggro deck or something that swarms with a bunch of tokens can be too much for the deck to handle. Karador takes a few turns to set up to ensure the right plays are being made at the right time and aggro, if they get off to a fast start, can disrupt your plans.
Exile effects can also be devastating to the deck which is why there is a fair number of cards here to help stop your things from getting exiled in the first place. There is no Pull From Eternity or Riftsweeper here because they don’t often do much (though Riftsweeper might be a good option).
One major card that is difficult to deal with is Overwhelming Splendor. I don’t see it a lot in my meta, but I do see it enough. Since this deck is very creature heavy, it can be tough to remove. This is the main reason for the inclusion of non-creature based removal as it shuts down our creatures pretty hard. If this is a problem in your meta, and the current inclusions aren’t enough, World Breaker, Return to Dust, or Cleansing Nova can be options to help mitigate the impact that card has on you. Shalai, Voice of Plenty is also a way to ensure you can’t get targeted with it (though there are other ways it can get attached to you).
While I prefer not to have “infinite” combos in my decks, others don’t necessarily feel the same so here are some possible combos in these colors. This is not an exhaustive list and just gives an idea of possibilities. I may add more as time goes on:
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed & Triskelion – One of the more obvious ones. With both on the field, you remove 1 counter from Triskelion to target whatever you want. Then, remove the other 2 to target itself. You need to remove 2 counters to target itself because Mikaeus is giving it a static +1/+1 so its P/T, without counters, is 2/2. Then it dies and Undying returns it with an extra counter so now it has 4 counters on it. Now, you remove 2 to target whatever you want and 2 to target itself. And then Undying triggers again. And so on.
Mikaeus, the Unhallowed & Walking Ballista & <any repeatable free sac outlet> - Because Mikaeus changes the P/T of the Ballista to be 1 without a counter, the same kind of loop is not possible (since you have to shoot itself to kill it but then you can’t shoot anything else). Adding a free sac outlet, like Viscera Seer, gives you a way to kill the Ballista after the counter is removed, to then return with Undying.
Karmic Guide & Viscera Seer & Reveillark & <a host of other cards> - This is another combo that gives you infinite deaths or ETB so you need something that can work off them like the aforementioned Blood Artist. Plus, the main core of this combo can be gotten off of Protean Hulk. So, you sac Hulk and get Karmic Guide and Viscera Seer. The Guide gets back the Hulk. You sac the Guide and the Hulk and the Hulk gets you Reveillark. Reveillark is sacrificed to Seer which gets back Guide which gets back Reveillark. Now, you sac Guide followed by Reveillark and continue looping those with something on the field that cares about them entering or dying.
There has been quite a few comments on this thread but in particular the activity by Pokken has been very helpful even if we don't always see eye to eye. I also looked at their Ephara primer for help with some of the formatting of mine.
toctheyounger77 is another who had some threads I reviewed to get inspiration for my Primer as well as help with some of the formatting.
Finally, benjameenbear uploaded the Primer Template which my Primer is based on and which allowed me to more easily structure this Primer
Another card I am going to give a try is Regal Behemoth. I think this card could be good to allow me to continue casting my stuff as needed to get a better control over the board. To make room for this, I have decided to cut Mindslicer. This is a card I have been moving away from anyway as it slows the game to a crawl. This deck can take advantage of it but it always felt bad to do.
Updates (I am including my initial cuts for Conspiracy cards so I document them):
The Gearhulk gives me another Shadowborn Demon and gains me life at the same time. I can see the Menace being relevant, though not as much as flying. I do think that this is a good card to have in the deck as it does a lot of what I want which is get rid of a problematic creature and gain me life when I need it.
Demon of Dark Schemes seems like a "different" Massacre Wurm. Not better or worse. It just has a different purpose. I will still take Massacre Wurm over Demon of Dark Schemes since Massacre Wurm can end the game, but I think both are pretty good. While the Demon hits my stuff too, I should have enough energy to start reanimating my creatures or my opponent's creatures.
To make room for this I am cutting Regal Behemoth. I didn't get to play much with it, but there is a reason I don't run Mirari's Wake in this deck as I don't often need a ton of mana to do things. Plus, needing to retain being the Monarch to get any use out of the Behemoth has proven to be challenging than I originally thought. At least, that is the case in this deck since I don't often flood the board with creatures to protect myself.
I also realized that this deck still runs Decree of Pain and I have been slowly changing that to Toxic Deluge in my decks so that will be replaced. I feel this is even more necessary since my curve is slowly going up with my other two additions, so this should help balance it a little bit.
So, after a number of unsuccessful attempts at replacing this deck with different builds, I have decided to move back to these colors. I had tried moving to 4 colors and then moving to Mardu and nothing ever felt as good as this build. I had also moved away from this at the time because I had one or two other decks that were really close to this deck. Those have since been dismantled so the time felt right to revisit this build.
Because of the length of time since dismantling this, there are quite a few changes compared to the last list. I will offer a breakdown of the card differences I feel are important after I list the cards I removed and added.
After looking at the differences in my deck list, I am quite surprised at the omissions in the original list as well as some of the inclusions. Most of the inclusions in the original list that I have now removed are due, at least partly, to a change in deck building philosophy.
As for the original omissions, Gaea's Cradle, Volrath's Stronghold, and Command Tower are 3 lands that I have no idea why they were not in the original list. They are there now. Regarding lands I have since cut, the big ones are the bounce lands that I no longer run in any decks and the off color fetches that I also moved away from in all decks.
As to some of the noncreature spells, I moved away from tutors in general and I feel Survival is more powerful than what I want in the deck so I no longer use it. I also cut O Stone and Merciless Eviction for creature based removal options. Birthing Pod, while not as good as Survival, was also cut to reduce the number of tutors. This one might actually make it back in as it is conditional and works well with Karador. Skullclamp just doesn't have as many things to attach to that will die right away.
Instead of the cards above, I included other removal options such as Path, Swords, Attrition, and Aura Shard. Perilous Forays is another sac outlet which also ramps me and Sylvan Library is more card draw.
Now, the biggest changes are with the creatures. Some were just underwhelming or unnecessary. Angel of Finality never felt great as it was Sorcery timing and Selvala never felt needed since I am only casting one or two things each turn anyway. And my ramp package made that possible already. I did find I was omitting some ramp like Yavimaya Dryad and Farhaven Elf. I am also including Kor Cartographer now.
A fair number of the cuts were based on mana curve. Demon of Dark Schemes, Ashen Rider, Duplicant, Massacre Wurm, Sheoldred, Woodfall Primus and World Breaker were just too high on the mana curve and there were better options at lower costs. Rune-Scarred and Sidisi were cut because of my general overall limit of unconditional tutors. Obviously I still include some conditional ones like Recruiter and Protean Hulk and Vampiric Tutor is in here just because it is an instant and can give me a necessary out to certain situations.
The other inclusions are things to get me out of certain situations that might come up. Pridemage gets rid of enchantments and artifacts. I included this along with Reclamation Sage as it gives me an out to Torpor Orb. The Gitrog Monster gives me card draw and land drops. Sun Titan can sort of ramp me as well as work at recurring things I might need. Magus of the Disk is an experimental inclusion. It is a creature based removal spell so I cut Akroma's Vengeance for it. It is delayed a turn compared to Vengeance but it gives me more options for recursion and being able to flash it in at the end of an opponent's turn in certain cases.
So far, these overhaul of the deck seems to be working out very well. As I mentioned, there are some cards I may end up including again (such as Birthing Pod) but for now the list seems pretty solid and its first outing (with a couple of differences from the "final" list in the first post) was very successful.
Rivals of Ixalan has not really provided much in the way of possible inclusions for the deck. The only card that might be reasonable in this deck is World Shaper. Wayward Swordtooth looks promising, but Azusa, Lost but Seeking is just better. I have also thought of Tetzimoc, Primal Death. It seems slow which is why I don't think I will include it, but it is another form of creature based removal. The worst part about it is that the activated ability is limited to my turn which severely limits the use.
So, I am going to see what happens in the coming weeks while waiting for the release of Rivals to see if I can find a spot to fit in World Shaper. Otherwise, this set does not seem to offer much for this deck.
I decided to update the deck with one one: Ravenous Chupacabra. It is cheap and it hits all my opponents' creatures that can be targeted and it is a creature so it works well with Karador.
I decided to cut Disciple of Bolas for now. To be honest, I had a hard time coming up with a cut for the card, and I just decided there is enough card draw and life gain outside this card that I can afford to cut it. If I find some other card is not performing, I may add it back in.
I have been playing this deck a lot and, so far, I very rarely lose with it. The resiliency it has and the way to take over the game even when empty handed is awesome. Obviously, at that point graveyard hate is devastating, but I have been able to take over the game with nothing in hand.
With that being said, I am always looking at new sets for new cards to include. The newest sets bring this cards to the table:
The first two are being considered solely for their ability to draw me cards. Now, I know Grothama can help my opponents draw cards too, but I figured I could have a few small creatures fight Grothama and then sac him to draw the cards from him dying. Since Karador wants things in the graveyard anyway, having my stuff die in exchange for cards is not the worst thing.
Krav does something similar in that I just sac creatures to draw cards as well as gain life. It also gives me a way to sac Grothama if the fights don't kill him. It is just another way of trying to keep my hand full.
Remorseful Cleric is a way to deal with opposing graveyards while being a creature that I also sac (so it works with Karador to make him cheaper). Sacrificing it means it can be better than Agent of Erebos since I can hold it up with the trade-off of telegraphing my play.
I was going to cut The Gitrog Monster for Phyrexian Plaguelord as a way to instant sac a bunch of stuff, but Krav may fill this role for now. So, I think that is what I am going to cut for Krav. However, that still means I need to find 2 other cuts to make for the other two cards. Magus of the Disk has been decent, but didn't truly offer the versatility I would like. I could see cutting that. And, with the additional card draw, I could see Sylvan Library being a but superfluous so maybe I could cut that as well. That one is a bit of a harder sell, but I could potentially get to that point, especially since I don't see anything else that stands out as warranting a cut.
The game started off pretty well. I ended up casting an early Harmonic Sliver to blow something up and getting a Wood Elves. I then dropped in a Grothama, All-Devourer. Next turn, I attacked and had my Sliver and Elves fight Grothama. Grothama dealt damage and I sacrificed him. I drew 2 cards and gained 8 life since I sacrificed it to Miren. This gave me a much needed land drop for the turn.
The Baird player and Dragon player were building up pretty well so the Aminatou player Languished. At the end of their turn, I activated Bazaar and discarded 3 cards. One of which was an Ulvenwald Hydra.
My turn I cast a Karmic Guide to get the Ulvenwald Hydra I discarded. I used that to tutor out my Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth. I felt this was the best play as black mana is always welcome in this deck and it allowed me to tap my Bazaar for mana as I needed. Unfortunately, it was exiled immediately by Aminatou with a Duplicant.
Bazaar kept me going a little and next turn I just dropped in an Aura Shards and did nothing. The turn after, I cast Karador, to then cast Karmic Guide, to get back Wood Elves to get a Dryad Arbor. In all, I got 4 creatures to blow up 4 enchantments and artifacts. It was actually a pretty fun turn and one that got rid of a couple important enchantments. 2 of the artifacts blown up were Aminatou 's as payback for exiling my Hydra. It felt pretty good
Unfortunately, they then bounced my board and Day's Undoing'd during their next turn. I was able to rebuild from there with Erebos and something else small. He survived for a turn before getting exiled off Return to Dust. I ended up drawing 4 or 5 cards off him so I still got good value.
From here, I basically go into a rhythm where the board was wrathed 2 or 3 times but I was able to rebuild with Karador and Karmic Guide. I got a Protean Hulk to then get a Mikaeus when it died. I used this to get more value out of things like Qasali Pridemage. Aminatou ended up putting Mikaeus on the bottom of my library fairly quickly after that and then Baird cast Day of Judgment. I had a Seedguide Ash so I got some lands. Next turn, I just cast Karador, Karmic Guide, Noxious Gearhulk to blow up the Ur Dragon and gain some more life back.
Aminatou did Ultimate so it stole 2 or 3 creatures. I don't remember what they were beyond Karador since I sacrificed the Gearhulk. I ended up tutoring up Damnation and wrathing the board anyway. Since I had gotten an Angelic Renewal from the Baird player, this let me get back Karador which let me recast Knight of the Reliquary. I then cast Qasali Pridemage from hand.
A couple turns later, the Aminatou player chose to Terminus. I had a Chainer at this time so I reanimated Qasali Pridemage to blow up the Gearhulk that I had recast (or gotten back with Chainer) and then I sacrificed Chainer. Next turn I cast Karador and cast Chainer. I then reanimated Magus of the Future from Aminatou on their turn and then cast Krav on my turn from my graveyard (having put it there with Bazaar). I also cast Archon of Justice. I used this to sacrifice to Krav to then exile Aminatou's Kefnet.
On The Ur-Dragon's turn, they cast Ur-Dragon for something like the 4th time. They equipped it with Swiftfoot Boots and tried to go to combat. I responded by blowing up the Boots to ensure it couldn't attack.
I reanimated Grothama on Aminatou's turn and then on my turn I attacked with it and had 3 of my creatures fight it. I sacrificed it to Krav to draw a total of 7 cards. At this time, the relevant pieces on the board are Krav and Chainer. I reanimated Protean Hulk. Which means that now, for 4 mana, I got any creature I wanted so I got Mikaeus first and then Kokusho. I sacrificed Kokusho 6 times to kill everyone and ending up at over 130 life.
During the game, Baird did very little to impact the game (they had a few things that needed to be answered) and The Ur-Dragon player kind of got caught in the crossfire with their board getting wiped quite often. They also had a couple good plays, but they couldn't get much to stick.
Overall, I think Karador only cost me 1 or 2 extra mana any time I recast him because I kept my graveyard pretty full.
The main problem I found with Grothama is that it is very hard to get this to work well without sac outlets. When it did work, it worked well, but I am not sure how consistent it is going to be. I still like it, so we will see how it fares going forward.
Krav did exactly what I expected. He drew me cards, gained me life, and worked as a sac outlet when I needed him. It worked much better than Grothama as a draw engine. I was pretty impressed with him this game.
I started off the game not doing much. I think I only got Yavimaya Dryad early for ramp and didn't really do much. I did end up having to get a Damnation off Vampiric Tutor to slow the other two players down (mostly Vaevictis). They then rebuilt and got down a ridiculous board state with Vaevictus, It That Betrays, and a couple other things (these were the big two). They ended up getting a Sol Ring from Skullbriar and a Command Tower from me. I got a Farhaven Elf off of it so I at least got my land back. I had a Mikaeus, the Unhallowed that Skullbriar targeted with Beast Within before this.
Next turn, I cast a Remorseful Cleric and Skullbriar had gotten rid of It That Betrays. Vaevictus made me sac my Cleric and I got a land I think. Eventually, I got down a Seedguide Ash and a Grothama, All-Devouring. With my Farhaven Elf and beast token, this allowed me to attack and fight Grothama with all 3. I wrathed my board but drew 8 cards. This got me back into the game as I got a Protean Hulk.
They still had a bunch of Artifacts and Enchantments (the worst of which was Baneful Omen since I was at 8 and Skullbriar was at 3 after seeing a Breaker of Armies on top) so the next turn I got a Karmic Guide to reanimate Hulk to then sac it to get Bane of Progress. This finally reined them in.
I ended up getting Mikaeus back which allowed me to continuously recur Karmic Guide and Hulk (I had Karador out to recast the Guide when it couldn't return from Undying). I then dropped in a Gray Merchant of Asphodel to drain players for 7. Skullbriar was dead at this point since I had attacked them and this, coupled with sacrificing the Hulk, gained me a lot of much needed life. I looped Gray Merchant over the course of a couple turns and drained 14 life each turn (since it kept coming back from Undying and I could then just cast it with Karador when it didn't come back). I ended up being at 94 life after having been down as low as 8.
Again, Grothama came through in a pinch when I really needed it and it let me draw 8 cards. Objectively, the effectiveness of it is still in question though. If I hadn't had 8 power on the board, I am not sure if I ever would have gotten back into that game. It is just one of those cards that, so far, has been good at getting me out of a tough situation, but I don't want to get sucked into thinking it is a great (or even good) card when I am just getting lucky. But, this has now been twice where this has done work for me, so I am definitely warming up to the card sticking around. Hopefully a couple more games will show one way or the other if these last two times were flukes or if I can expect to have this kind of success with it more often than not.
I haven't had a chance to play this much lately (especially with the holiday) but I decided to make a couple changes to the deck.
Knight of Autumn is one that I wanted to add when I saw it spoiled. It is a better Reclamation Sage that is just a little harder to cast. I don't think the counters mode will matter, but gaining 4 life can be beneficial in certain cases. In the vast majority of cases though, it will just be a Rec Sage.
Mausoleum Secrets is kind of weird for me. I generally dislike tutors as they can tend to make games repetitive. I have Vampiric Tutor in this deck only because it is an Instant and it gives me a way to get an Eldrazi in my graveyard if someone is trying to exile it (usually using Bazaar or Greater Good). Mausoleum Secrets is a bit different in that it gets me something to my hand but is really conditional. And the conditions work very well with this deck: I will often have a lot of creatures in my graveyard and my black cards can be the answer I need when I need it. I do have a few wincons in black but I also have a few answers I might need too. Since it is unlikely I will be tutoring the same thing every game, I think it is acceptable.
Notably, I would generally want to get Protean Hulk or Spike Weaver or Constant Mists if I am about to die and this doesn't get me those. I know it is weird to prefer a card because it *can't* do something, but I like the space this plays in for this deck. The issue for including this is finding room for it. This deck is fairly "tuned" for what I want (I know it could be infinitely better with combos and things like that) so trying to find cuts for new cards is always a challenge. This time around, I looked at potentially cutting Noxious Gearhulk, Crypt Rats, Realm Seekers, Perilous Forays, and Corpse Dance.
I decided on Perilous Forays for a couple reasons. Its ability is really good, but it does cost a lot of mana to cast. It allows for ramp, but at the expense of creatures (not a huge deal in this deck, but something worth noting). It is not a creature so it doesn't work as well with Karador. I have enough other ramp in the deck that it isn't always that necessary. I am not sure if I will miss this card, but I think the benefit of being able to tutor what I need at the right time should be a greater benefit than just trying to ramp more. Due to the conditional and restricted nature of Mausoleum Secrets, it is possible it is a mistake to include but I am excited to try it out.
I played this deck today and ended up winning with it. I was playing against Aurelia and my own new Niv-Mizzet, Parun deck. I had almost no ramp the entire game except a lone Sakura Tribe Elder. Niv-Mizzet took out Aurelia after a bit of back and forth between them. I ended up just sitting back, doing a few things, like Pernicious Deed, and slowly worked my way into a winning position. I ended up winning by having a Kokusho in play and casting Karador. Niv countered him. I cast Karador again for the same cost (I had 7 creatures in my graveyard). They countered him again. I cast him one more time (this time for 2WBG). This time he stuck so I sacrificed Kokusho, cast him again, and sacrificed him to win the game.
As a side note, I was able to get Kokusho off of Mausoleum Secrets so it worked out in its first outing.
Interestingly, I made a mistake in my deck changes. I mentioned above that I wanted to cut Perilous Forays. But, when I was writing that, I had already cut Realm Seekers before deciding to change the cut but I forgot to change the actual deck before playing. And this game showed the usefulness of Perilous Forays. While playing, I was trying to determine if Realm Seekers would have been better and I don't think it would have in that situation. The ability to sac and ramp was instrumental in winning that game so I am going to go back to my initial thought and cut Realm Seekers instead of Perilous Forays.
Brudicald actually started off reasonably well and got down Brudiclad. Unfortunately, they couldn't get their main token producers so they slowed down a little at this point. In the meantime, Ramos was ramping and working on getting Ramos online. Both Brudiclad and I worked to keep Ramos off the table.
I cast a Grothama but never really had anything worth fighting it. Ramos cast a Realm Seekers with 9 counters. The next turn, they fought Grothama to draw 9 cards so that was a bit of an issue but they didn't do a lot with those cards right away since they were kind of low on mana. I recurred Grothama later and fought 3 of my creatures so they all died and I drew 8 cards.
Eventually, I built up a board state of Erebos, Karador, Ulvenwald Hydra, and a couple others. Brudiclad had cast Memnarch, Stealer of Secrets which I blew up. In response, they made Erebos into an Artifact. Ramos then cast Saheeli's Artistry to copy my Hydra and Erebos. Since Erebos prevents me from gaining life, I sacrificed him in response so they only got the Hydra. And then, Ramos cast their own Ulvenwald Hydra.
A couple turns later, Brudiclad got Memnarch back and stole something from Ramos. I blew it up again and they made my Diamond Valley into an artifact. A couple turns later, Ramos cast Merciless Eviction and Brudiclad tried to convince them to exile Artifacts to get rid of my Diamond Valley. Ramos chose the smarter play and exiled enchantments since I could have sacrificed my creatures. This exiled an Erebos I had recurred and my Aura Shards. At some point, my Diamond Valley got blown up anyway with an Artifact removal spell.
At some point (before getting Erebos and Grothama down I think), I ended up with 0 cards in hand. But, I had my Bazaar of Baghdad so I always had stuff to do with being able to cast things with Karador. This kept me in the game for a long time before I got Erebos to get me a few cards so I could still keep some in hand. I also cast a Lifeblood Hydra to gain some life and draw more cards.
All of these different card draw engines are basically what allowed me to start taking over the game. I had 20 lands at one point and was able to use Protean Hulk to get a bunch of different things to keep me going. In the end, I think it was Kokusho who dealt the final blow, but there was a lot going into damaging my opponents before Kokusho made an appearance.
Overall, the deck is functioning fantastically well. Again, there was never a time where I felt Realm Seekers would have been nice to have and Grothama has been stellar (even though it did draw Ramos a bunch of cards). Normally, I would have a Sac outlet to prevent that but it was early enough that I didn't yet.
Mausoleum Secrets is still on my radar. I have used it only once and it got Kokusho. I fully expected it to be used as more of a toolbox card so I am going to continue monitoring it to ensure the choices I make with it are different. If it ends up mostly just being "get Kokusho" I will likely cut it.
As to the Ramos deck, the gimmick with it is kind of subtle. Every nonland card in the deck has a CMC of either 6 or 9 ("69"; get it? ). I think, if I remember right, that all the cards' CMC's also add up to 420 or there is something related to 420 as part of the deck.
It is honestly not a bad deck and it has a lot of power (6 drops tend to be where a lot of the big things that are actually playable reside) so it is still fun to play against the deck.
I mulled once back to 7 and kept a questionable hand. If I could get a Forest or another land, it wouldn't be bad since I had Gaea's Cradle and 2 ramp creatures. I did end up getting Kor Cartographer down on turn 4 and then Yavimaya Dryad on turn 5. This got me moving but with 2 blue decks and not a ton of gas, I couldn't really string much together. I only ever cast Karador once and he was immediately countered. I knew he would be since I knew Niv had a counter in hand and I did it to get rid of the counter, but I never got a chance to cast Karador again.
Unfortunately, I only ever got one wrath and Niv rebuilt pretty fast. The Locust God got them 8 tokens before I exiled it, but then they still had Niv around. They kept swinging into me and then just cast Wheel of Fortune to deal the final 8 damage to finish me off. It was just a bad game or even just a bad matchup as trying to go against 2 control/spellsplinger decks is tough. This deck can usually hold its own, but the cards I was getting were not what I wanted. At one point, I cast an Ulvenwald Hydra only to have Niv Trickbind the trigger. This was actually a disastrous play for me as I needed to get my Diamond Valley right then in order to have a shot to stay alive.
One thing to note is that I used to play Massacre Wurm but I cut it due to not being as effective as I wanted while also being 6 mana (3 of it being black). However, I think the new Massacre Girl card could find a home in this deck. It doesn't seem like it would take much to wrath the entire board with Massacre Girl when needed. I am not sure what I would cut, but I will likely try to find something.
I played this deck the other day and did very poorly. I kept a sketchy hand mostly because it had 3 lands and decent spells but there was no ramp. And I saw basically no ramp the rest of the game. In fact, I don't think I got above 8 lands the entire game and I almost always had fewer than 2 creatures. I did have a Chainer, Dementia Master down which helped a little as I was able to steal an opponent's Felidar Sovereign so they couldn't get it back from Emeria, the Sky Ruin and it did save me for a little while but it definitely was not enough. I ended up losing this game without having done pretty much anything.
There is one play I want to call out though because I liked doing it
The opponent sitting across from me (they were playing Thraximundar I think) had gotten a couple creatures down and slammed a Bane of Bala Ged that had haste due to Garna, the Bloodflame. Now, I was sitting there with 7 lands, Nihil Spellbomb and Chainer and that was it. Meanwhile, an opposing Karador, Ghost Chieftain and Baird, Steward of Argive had built up pretty big board states. Granted, Baird was tough to attack into, but Karador was not. For some reason, the Thrax player thought it was a good idea to attack into me with Bane. This led to me needing to exile a land and the Spellbomb. But, before blockers were declared, I reanimated their Phyrexian Obliterator with Chainer. And I blocked with it. This led to them needing to sacrifice all of their permanents except for 3 lands. After that, they were basically out of the game. It felt pretty satisfying as there was basically no reason I should have been attacked in that situation.
Overall, it was a terrible game for this deck, but at least I got one good play out of it.
I kept a questionable hand of 5 lands and 2 spells. I had no ramp and never saw any throughout the game. I basically stalled out at 7 mana (or something like that) which meant I never cast my general and I was never really involved in the game. I had a couple plays, such as getting False Prophet off of Recruiter of the Guard but I never got to cast it. I felt this was my best bet as Rashmi was getting out of hand but, by the time I could cast it, they had gotten a Deadeye Navigator and Mystic Snake on the field along with a Seedborn Muse and Alchemist's Refuge. Effectively, they could counter everything we did and Jhoira was super light on removal so Rashmi just ran over us pretty hard.
Due to the decline in performance of this deck lately, I am going to rethink some of the deck. I seem to keep getting stuck on lands for some reason so I may need to add in some additional ramp creatures or ramp spells. I am not sure I want to increase the land count just yet, but I may add one land to push it up to 40. The way things have been going, I have been finding I am often short on cards and short on mana and mana is the big one since Karador can be my card advantage when I need him to be.
I am hoping to get a couple games in today so I might try to tweak this before then and see what happens.
The biggest thing here is the mana. I really seem to have a problem getting green mana early on and getting stuck with lands that don't produce colored mana (or mana at all in some cases). So, I decided to cut back on utility lands. Cradle is gone because I rarely have that many creatures on the board anyway. Maze and Strip Mine are cut for not producing colored mana. Then, I added 5 Forests (a couple of the other cuts became Forests) to ensure I get lands early and green mana is the most important at that stage of the game.
Grothama was cut for not doing as much as I would like it to and needing some additional support to make it really good. Krav was cut since he is 5 mana and isn't the greatest sac outlet in this deck and, as a sac outlet, is not really needed. Attrition is rarely needed as well since, again, I don't need the sac outlet and I rarely have the creatures to really make it shine. Rector is really only here for Agent of Erebos and Pernicious Deed and I don't feel like either are the greatest plays.
I added the Farmhand since it is 1 mana (though it is 2 to activate) and it gives me something cheap to get off of Protean Hulk if I need it. I added Nissa since she can offer more ramp or card draw. Neither can be controlled so it is possible I get a card in hand when I want a land or vice versa. Yavimaya Elder was added back in even though it is not really ramp. It is a way to ensure I hit land drops but it replaces itself. I had cut it at one point due to not being ramp but helping with land drops can be enough. I chose these over Dawntreader Elk for now as I think they each have advantages the Elk doesn't. I also left out Cultivate and Kodama's Reach for now. Due to Karador, I prefer my ramp to be creature based.
And, finally, I cranked up the lands to 41. I mentioned above that I would go to 40 but, as I was testing, I was still finding I was having problems getting the right mana to get off the ground. This is where I ended up cutting the Cradle, Strip Mine, and Maze and then adding in more Forests.
Isperia cast Austere Command so I responded with activating Bazaar, binning Kokusho, the Evening Star (and 2 other cards) and then reanimated it with Corpse Dance (with Buyback). Kokusho died and I gained 10 life. I was then tempted the next turn to get back Cartographer with Corpse Dance but I never did. I had tried to reanimate a Protean Hulk later only to be stopped by a Disallow from Isperia which wasn't unexepcted (I am playing against 2 UW decks after all). I ended up just getting value from my graveyard as I had cast Karador by this time and was just casting small things.
About this time, Isperia enchanted me with with Overwhelming Splendor. They were at 20 and I had 3 creatures so I just attacked them. Azor then disenchanted the Splendor so I hit for 6. This was a crucial play as I only have 1 way to get rid of the Splendor. They did this as they felt they would not be able to deal with Azor and they may have been correct. But, I am not sure if that was the right timing for the effect. Either way, it allowed me to get back into the game.
Azor was taken out of the game shortly after this and then I was able to flood the board with Sun Titan, Necrotic Sliver, and Mikaeus, the Unhallowed. The interaction with these 3 cards allowed me to basically clear out Azor's board so I could attack unimpeded. Spike Weaver also played a role and the Sliver was huge in being able to constantly keep Grand Abolisher off the field. I ultimately won off of Gray Merchant of Asphodel though my board state was such that I could have just attacked for a while and done the same thing. Gray Merchant only got me 6 life each time since I only had 6 devotion to Black but it entered 4 times thanks to Mikaeus and Karador.
So, after the game a couple things to consider: the changes I made were really last minute and just made because I had some time to kill while waiting for the game to start. I am not sure Nissa, Elder, and Farmhand are the right choices since I never saw any of them in this game but I am convinced that increasing the land count to 41 (at least) *is* correct. This deck needs its lands and needs to get a board state going early and too often it falters due to lack of lands. Even in this game, I missed an early land drop so increasing it to 42 might not be out of the question.
Another issue that has popped up more and more often in my playgroup is Overwhelming Splendor. And, because my removal is creature based, I only have Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger that can deal with it. Which sucks. So, I think I need more Instants/Sorceries that can deal with Splendor in particular but Torpor Orb is another that would be good to deal with. The ones that stand out are:
Beast Within - Deals with everything Generous Gift - Deals with everything Krosan Grip - Deals with Artifacts and Enchantments and is tough to counter Ray of Revelation - Deals with Splendor and can be gotten off of Entomb or used twice but restricted to Enchantments. Oblation - Deals with everything including Indestructible Return to Dust - Exiles so can deal with indestructible stuff and prevents them from coming back Crush Contraband - Similar to Return to Dust. It can't get 2 of the same permanent type but can always get 2 permanents no matter when I cast it. Force of Vigor - Can be free but only destroys instead of exiles. Oblivion Ring - Deals with any permanent other than lands and can hit indestructible stuff. It is temporary but also comes back off of Sun Titan. World Breaker - High on the mana cost, but it is a creature and I can Entomb it and get it back if needed.
In general, I prefer Instant speed methods of dealing with these types of things. Using Splendor as an example, they need to spend 8 mana to cast it so it is more likely that they will be tapped out where I can interact with it unimpeded. And I can try to time it so others can't stop me either. I also like exile effects due to the presence of things like Darksteel Forge in my meta. Will all of that said, I think my top 3 choices from the list above are Krosan Grip, Crush Contraband, and Beast Within. Grip is hard to counter, Contraband can get more stuff without being limited to the time it can be cast and it exiles, and Beast Within just hits everything including lands which can be important since I cut Strip Mine. If I had to come up with a 4th option, I would probably go with Oblation for its versatility. It does draw my opponent cards but sometimes that is worth it. And, in a pinch, can be used to draw me cards.
With these in mind, I then need to come up with some cards to cut. The ones I can really see cutting are:
Noxious Gearhulk - The life gain and removal is nice, but 6 mana is a lot. And Beast Within can kind of replace it. Ramunap Excavator - This works well with land destruction and Bazaar but I am not sure it is really needed. I like the synergy but I don't know that it has come up a lot. Seedguide Ash - This is a great effect and can really ramp me hard with some reanimation effects. But, it is 5 mana and does need to die to be worth it. Which isn't always possible depending on what I have on board at the time. Acidic Slime - With the move to Instant Based removal, I can see the possibility of cutting the Slime. I like it as it represents a threat as a blocker, but 5 mana for a 2/2 can be too slow sometimes. Perilous Forays - I had almost cut this at one time before and I think it might still be the right call to cut it. Especially with some of the other "ramp" (I know Nissa and Elder aren't ramp) that I added this card may not be as necessary. And, again, 5 mana can be a lot.
Since I came up with 5 cards that I think could be cut, and I want to add more non-creature based removal, I am going to add in Generous Gift as well (once Modern Horizons releases). I may find that I am going too far in one direction but this allows me to better see what these changes can do if I make larger changes than small incremental ones. If I do find I am going too far into the non-creature based removal, I will hopefully see that in subsequent games and I can slowly turn the dial back the other way. So, here are the changes I will make:
On a final note, I will cut 1 Forest for Horizon Canopy and, once MH releases, I will be cutting 2 Forests for Nuturing Peatland and Prismatic Vista. I think these duals will help smooth out the deck even though they can't be fetched and Vista just ensures I get the right color. I think, in general, it is better than a basic. It is possible that the inclusion of more lands that sac themselves could lead me back to including Ramunap Excavator so it is something I will look at.
Overwhelming Splendor is just such a terrible card to be playing against as this Commander. Not only does it turn all of your creatures into hot garbage, but it also prevents you from using sac outlets in order to try to net any sort of value from them.
In my Karador I have Anguished Unmaking as an emergency button, and I think it's quite efficient. 3 life is nothing when you start with 40.
I also think that mana elves can be a critical addition to Karador, especially considering you're having early mana problems. They come down ASAP, give you colors you possibly didn't have, and when they die they reduce Karador's cost. I would definitely run a few in place of a few of your lands.
Tier 1 mana elves IMO are:
Birds of Paradise
Deathrite Shaman (only if you have enough fetches)
Elves of Deep Shadow
Joraga Treespeaker (depending on your elf count)
Honestly, I don't know how I forgot about Anguished Unmaking (or Utter End for that matter though the 1 extra mana can be relevant). I play it in other decks and have played it in Modern so I should have thought about it. I will try it over Oblation for now as I think that is the "worst" of the options above due to the card draw. I thought about leaving out Generous Gift instead but being able to destroy a land is something good to have.
As for the dorks, it is very possible some number of these are correct but I just never like having them. Yes, they ramp me early so that is quite obviously a plus, but they are not permanent (or, less permanent than lands). The main issue is that, at some point, this deck wants to wrath the board or expects the board to get wrathed. It is already bad enough to go down a land when Dryad Arbor gets destroyed but to have more mana production get destroyed in the process just feels bad. While, overall, I am not a fan of dorks they likely have their place in certain decks. I just don't think this deck really wants them even with their synergy with Karador.
The way I play Karador is some early mana elves, into land fetching creatures like Wood Elves and company, then card draw engines. The early game is the most vulnerable part of Karador's game, and mana elves have without doubt improved that stage.
I'm only running the elves that fix colors - BoP, Arbor Elf, etc.
Try testing some and I believe you will not disappoint.
I really think that karador wants Deathrite shaman at the very least. That card is nuts in EDH. I would also probably play Birds of paradise but not much else myself, maybe Arbor Elf since it fixes so well, but only if you run enough fetches to support it which I know OP does not like (running off-color fetches).
I think Deathrite is fine to run even with only 4-5 fetches, the utility of exiling instants/sorceries/other people's lands/creatures is just too strong. He's furiously annoying when he can't be killed forever too.
Based on shermanido37's comments, I had already though of trying out some dorks. I still don't necessarily like the idea, but it is difficult to say if it is good or bad if I don't actually try it. With Pokken's comments, I think I can at least go as far as Deathrite Shaman and Birds of Paradise. I would rather start small and 2 seems fine to start with. And Deathrite does seem to have good utility outside of *just* ramping so he isn't the worst card even later in the game.
I will need to determine what to cut for them but I will see if I can get a couple games in next week with a modified deck list.
With your volume of land search I think you can cut from 39 mana producing lands to 38 and cut Vesuva, when adding two mana dorks. Vesuva is really just good stuff in this deck, and it ETBs tapped.
I would cut Nihil Spellbomb for Deathrite. He does most of the same job and you really have no synergy with spellbomb I can see.
I also do not think I would go crazy with mana dorks. You really just want enough to always draw an accelerant or two in the first few turns. The deck is not particularly mana greedy and you get a huge discount on your general, so no real need I don't think.
re: the selection of dorks
I think Birds is great because it blocks fliers forever. I have seen someone fog a flier multiple time with Birds in Karador, and of course it fixes better than anything. Definitely my pick as second dork because of that.
I would consider finding some room for Gavony Township as well. That card is the nuts in go long slow aggro decks. Really underplayed in EDH. It's probably way better than Winding Canyons in this deck, but I am pretty harsh on canyons personally, too mana intensive for what it does
I was at 39 lands for the longest time and I always seemed to have problems getting off the ground. When the deck worked, it really worked, but I had a number of non-games due to mana. Now, I have trimmed some of the more egregious lands that were contributing to this (or, at least, the ones I was willing to cut) and bumped up to 41 lands. I think I will stay at 41 for the time being but it is possible that trimming the lands I did and, now, adding the 2 dorks will allow me to go a little lower again.
I really want Grave Hate and Vesuva is Bojuka Bog #2. With Crop Rotation and Knight of the Reliquary, it makes it easier to get them at instant timing and Vesuva makes it so I can Bog someone even if I already have it on the field. And cloning a Diamond Valley is always fun.
I can definitely see the point of Spellbomb though. Beyond Sun Titan, there isn't much it synergizes with. I like it mostly because it is an instant timing way of dealing with graveyards and it replaces itself. I can cut it for now and see if I really notice it being gone.
Cutting Winding Canyons is blasphemy I like Township in Karametra where she has a higher chance of having a big board of creatures. Karador is more prone to only having 1 or 2 "big" creatures (there are usually smaller ones hanging around) and they come out when the board is fairly clear already. It may be a good card to beef up those smaller creatures, but the big strike against it is that it doesn't produce colored mana and I having been trying to keep "colorless" lands to a minimum. I can watch my games for this and see if I find I am ever in a scenario where it would have made a difference. I have a feeling those situations will be rare, but I could be wrong as I have never actually thought about it.
With 38 creatures and such a low curve I would really have expected way more board states of like, 4-5 useless derps, but I could just be misreading how the deck plays.
I definitely would not go up on colorless lands which is why I lean toward cutting Canyons lol. MIren, the moaning well is the only other really expendable card in my eyes. That thing is way overcosted.
If you don't want to shave a tapped land, then after spellbomb I think Kor Cartographer is your worst card. That thing is way overpriced.